Fishing for the Jackpot – The Rise of Poker and Sport Fishing

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Bass Fishing and Poker Night FishingIn recent years, the purely recreational pastime of fishing has undergone a similar evolution – bass fishing is now a lucrative industry and a legitimate professional sport, where top anglers such as Skeet Reese regularly pull down seven figures a year. It’s not uncommon to see professional sport fishermen wear jerseys and ride on boats that are plastered with logos from related companies: manufacturers of fishing lines, rods, lures and hooks; boat builders; trolling motor and outboard engine makers; marine GPS purveyors. This usually means professional bass anglers earn more than triple their income from endorsements than they do from tournament winnings.

From the smoke-filled gaming halls of previous decades, poker has emerged as a complex mind sport with limitless possibilities for success. Much like chess, poker is a real game of skill that rewards quick-thinking players who have invested thousands of hours refining and honing the necessary intuition to thrive on the felt-layered tables. The World Series of Poker (WSOP) is a well-produced sporting event rife with nail-biting tension that rivals the drama of any basketball or hockey game. The World Poker Tour (WPT) is an international circuit that continues to showcase the rapidly expanding talent pool of poker worldwide, in addition to putting the spotlight on some of the world’s grandest and finest casinos. WPT broadcasts also introduced an innovation that would dramatically change the television viewing experience for poker players: the hole card cameras. The importance of this simple storytelling device wasn’t lost on the poker media, including poker player and novelist Martin Harris, otherwise known as “Short-Stacked Shamus”. Indeed, as Harris (under his “Shamus” alias) wrote in a May 2012 article, the WPT events’ regular use of the hole card cameras turned what was once a novelty for most television and online audiences into an integral component of the overall viewing experience.

Unsurprisingly, poker and bass fishing have crossed paths throughout the years. The Eagle Claw Poker Invitational held at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino is fast becoming a tradition in the sport fishing community. This particular poker tournament pits some of the industry’s top buyers, manufacturers and pros together with sport fishing fans who want to win some serious cash. It’s also a tremendously fun way to kick off the annual International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades (ICAST), the world’s largest sport fishing trade show. Another poker tournament that has been well-received by the sport fishing community is the appropriately named Fish & Chips Great Outdoors Poker Challenge, held at Lincoln, California’s Thunder Valley Casino & Resort. Some of the biggest names in outdoor sports have participated in this event, including Bassmaster Elite Series champions Byron Velvick and Ish Monroe, FLW champions R.J. Bennett and Zack Thompson, custom lure designer Alan Fong, and licensed California bass fishing guide Don Paganelli.

Clearly, both poker and sport fishing possess vibrant and sprawling communities that tirelessly support the competitive aspect of their respective sports.